The Heineken Champions Cup is still the top order in Europe and will always be a target for Glasgow Warriors, no matter who the head coach is, says Dave Rennie.
It’s widely expected the New Zealander will end a three-year run at the helm of the Warriors at the end of this season, and despite reaching last year’s quarter-finals, consistent European success has eluded the club under his charge.
It’s no easier this year with Exeter, La Rochelle and Saturday’s visitors Sale Sharks in their pool, but Rennie isn’t looking at this as being a valedictory campaign for him.
“Regardless of what’s happening with me, this is still the top 20 teams in Europe in this competition,” he pointed out. “Our own comp (the Guinness PRO14) is a good one but this is the highest standard.
“We have a better squad with a lot more depth in it and we believe we have a pack that can compete in Europe.
“I thought we were really good in Europe last year and have a good understanding of the type of game we are trying to play.
“On our week we can knock anybody over. That has to be our mindset.
“We’ve had a scratchy kind of start in our own comp, but the last two weeks we’ve been really good, so we’re building and have got a lot of confidence. It’s nice to be playing the first game at home, but we’re well aware of the threat that Sale bring.”
Glasgow have planned three or four weeks of selections with players coming back from the World Cup, and Rennie’s choice for the premier competition has only a couple of pointers, notably Nick Grigg coming back in the centre to partner Sam Johnson after two weeks off with a knee injury.
“It was a really tight decision between him and Huw (Jones), to be honest, but we’ve gone for strongest defensive pairing, with Kyle Steyn on the bench because he can obviously cover centre and wing, so we’ve got more flexibility,” continued Rennie.
“Huw has gone really well and his attack has been excellent, but they have some big ball carriers which is the reason we have gone with Nick.”
Ratu Tagive will start his first European game for the club having impressed in the last two league games, which keeps Niko Matawalu out of the squad, while Ali Price makes his first appearance on the bench after his foot injury suffered in the first game of the World Cup, and a battle royal for the 9 jersey with George Horne starts again.
“George has played really well for us for the last couple of years, hasn’t he?” added Rennie. “He had a really strong World Cup and he’s been excellent since he’s been back with us.
“Clearly he suits the type of game that we play, which is high pace, high skill. It’s important that he gets to the breakdown quickly and allows us to play our type of game.
“But Ali is very similar. Last year they were scrapping it out for the shift, and to be honest this year they’re both going to play a lot of footy. We want to get a bit more rugby into Ali but he’s worked hard and as a result he’s on the bench this week.”
Glasgow team (vs Sale Sharks, Heineken Champions Cup, live on BT Sport ko 1pm)
Tommy Seymour; Ratu Tagive, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Rob Harley, Scott Cummings; Ryan Wilson, Callum Gibbins (capt), Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Alex Allan, Darcy Rae, Tim Swinson, Chris Fusaro, Ali Price, Pete Horne, Kyle Steyn.